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lesson learned mentor Oct 01, 2020

by Kathy Olevsky

 

I’ve operated a martial arts school full time for 45 years. I may have made every mistake that can be made in this business. The reason I’m still in business, I believe, is I asked for help. I learned quickly that others before me had already found solutions. In this column, I’ll point out key mistakes I made in my career, which are common errors among school owners, both large and small, throughout our industry. And I’ll share the solutions I used to overcome them.

First, the good news: Many of us are back to teaching in our schools.

Now, the bad news: Some of us are dealing with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, and our states are taking action to address it. I know a few martial arts school owners who could not sustain their businesses. As a result, they had to close their doors.

Basically, we all are operating on the same premise: We will open our schools if we can, and if not, we will operate virtually until in-person training is possible again. It is interesting to see how many of us invested time to learn new skills so we could continue in our chosen field. That should not come as a surprise. As martial artists, we are constantly reinventing our methods to keep our students happy and enthusiastic about training. COVID was just one more obstacle that required us to adapt and move forward.

An interesting thing happened at our school in August: We began seeing new faces before old faces. In July, I made the decision to restart our marketing. Shortly afterward, we noticed new students were showing up daily. However, our old students, who I thought would trust us the most, were happy just continuing their virtual lessons. Of course, some of our old students did come back to our physical classes, but in the end, that number only reached 15 percent. The rest are content with virtual lessons — at least until they can feel safe engaging in an indoor activity again.

It was at that moment in August when I realized we might see a turnover in most of our clients. It was as if we were back where we were 10 years ago, starting from a small student body and trying to build.

Fortunately, I realized that we are good at this. We did it before, and we can do it again. We immediately conducted surveys to find out what people wanted, then allocated resources to the areas that would bring us the best results. We started offering beginner classes five days a week for preschoolers, kids, teens and adults. Those classes were well-attended. We also discovered that we needed to increase the number of virtual classes and virtual private lessons to maintain the interest and satisfaction of our colored-belt students.

We had students who needed classes in which everyone would be in a mask, as well as students who wanted to not wear a mask. To meet the needs of both groups, we created “mandatory mask” and “recommended mask” class options. We are still providing all the necessary temperature checks, precaution waivers and hand sanitizer. We are still teaching classes in which students have no partners most of the time. We have started offering classes in which individuals can pair up with family members or close friends. We tell them that we want each student to have only one training partner, and they must agree to stick with that person for the duration of the class.

There is no way to make everyone happy with one solution. Instead, we found that the only way to make everyone happy is to offer multiple solutions. We are now learning to meet our students’ needs in as many ways as possible. After all, this is a waiting game. We all are just trying to stay in business until we can return to the martial arts programs that we have taught for years. Most likely, we all will keep portions of the things we learned. It will make our programs better in the long run.

 

To contact Kathy Olevsky, send an email to [email protected]

 

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